THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE, LAHORE, 09th OCTOBER 2013:
The British Council and the Schools Education Department launched an initiative here on Tuesday to improve the English language skills of 300,000 public school teachers in the Punjab.
The five-year Punjab Education and English Language Initiative (PEELI) will be a crucial element of the government’s plan to convert all schools in the province to using English as the medium of instruction. The SED and the Directorate of Staff Development will provide the infrastructure for the training of primary school teachers and of subject specialist middle level teachers.
Speaking at the launch, Sir Vernon Ellis, chair of the British Council, said that they were excited about the project. “Education is not just a tool for development, but also lays the foundation for a society,” he said. In view of the government of Punjab’s “ambitious commitment” to English as the medium of instruction, the project would help teachers perform better in classrooms. He added, however, that the British Council was looking for long-term partners to help implement the project.
Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan read out a message from Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who said that the project would improve learning practices and outcomes and augment the government’s school enrolment campaign. The training would help bring teachers’ English language skills up to the required level.
The minister also talked about the progress made in certain key areas, as recommended by task-forces formed on the subjects back in 2008. The government, he said, was prioritising the provision of missing facilities in schools, particularly girls’ schools. Toilets, boundary walls, drinking water and furniture were being provided to schools in Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur. The government aimed to hire more than 30,000 new teachers this year. They would be trained before they were put to work. The government also aimed to enrol 4.5 million out-of-school children aged 5 to 9 by 2015, and had already met this year’s enrolment target, the minister said.
In a panel discussion at the launch, Punjab Education Foundation Director Bushra Saeed Khan said teachers at low-cost schools must be retained. “And for this it is all the more important to add value to their skill set, to give them a reason to stay in these schools,” she said.
Idara-i-Taleem-o-Aagahi programmes director Baela Raza Jamil said the project would help teachers comply with the government’s decision to impose English as the medium of instruction in all schools. Having teachers able to communicate better and teach better would lead to an improved retention rate, she added.